My June blog was a whopper, so I hope you all had time to read it! If you need a brief recap, it goes a little something like this: I’m pregnant (it’s a girl and she’s due in early November), Blossom is back on television after 15 years of being MIA (the floppy, flowered hat trend could possibly be being resurrected across the globe as we speak, God forbid.), and I was in an episode of ABC’s Celebrity Wife Swap, which just aired on July 15th. (If you missed it, make a mad dash for ABC.com to view it!)
How’s that for some concise Cliff’s Notes?
Now that the show has finally been broadcast, and I’m allowed to discuss it without giving away any super classified, hush-hush secrets, I want to talk a bit more about my Celebrity Wife Swap experience; it was quite the grand adventure! I’ll begin by saying it has surprised some folks that I agreed to participate in a reality show in the first place. I’ll admit it isn’t customarily my style, and I’ve turned down offers to do so in the past, as I didn’t want to expose my family life to that sort of scrutiny. That said, this one made me rethink my outlook. (Mind you, I also blog about my personal life these days, so I figure I’m an open book at this point anyway!) But why did I choose to do Celebrity Wife Swap, you ask? As I mentioned in my last post, “Curiosity got the better of me. The challenge of being in someone else’s home, living in their (as it happens, very fancy) shoes for a week, and walking away with a dose of self-reflection and inspiration, was just too intriguing to pass up. The fact is it wound up being a once in a lifetime adventure, and a bizarre/refreshing/thought-provoking social experiment, to say the least. It was a brilliant reminder of just how much my husband and I love one another and how perfectly we fit. There’s always more to learn in this lifetime, and I don’t expect my parenting or marriage education to end any time soon. I embrace being a work in progress.”
In short, we all had a blast and we have no regrets!
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not suggesting the whole affair was easy breezy. There were some exceedingly difficult aspects to filming the show, predominantly that it was the first time I’ve ever been away from Gray. Other than her twice-a-week attendance at a local daycare, we’ve been attached at the hip for the last two years. And we like it that way! A week without my sweet little sidekick was a complicated and challenging pill for this mommy to swallow.
That subject is really what I wanted to focus on this month, as I imagine many of you have had to deal with similar circumstances. Of course that’s not to suggest you’ve had to leave your child and husband behind while you spent a week trading places with one of the Real Housewives of New York (how surreal does THAT sound?!), but you get the gist. I know a lot of you are working parents, and I have the utmost respect for you. The Wife Swap journey boosted that level of appreciation even more, as I experienced a small percentage of what you must go through on a daily basis. It’s hard to split time between work and family life, and it’s always painful to bid farewell to your child as you head off to work… No matter how passionate you might be about your career! Admittedly, it’s also tough to avoid letting a little guilt creep in every now and then; sometimes our heads and hearts just can’t quite reconcile that matter. I certainly sympathize with those of you who dream of crawling back into bed to snuggle with your baby each morning, but pour yourself a strong cup of coffee and don your office clothes instead.
My husband and I spent a considerable amount of time deciding whether or not Celebrity Wife Swap was the right thing for us to do–not because we were against the idea of the show itself, but because it meant my traveling away from Gray for a whole week. Obviously, our priority was how Gray might adapt to the time without her mommy. Ultimately, we knew she would be surrounded by love and support, since both Brad and my own mom were at the house with her the entire time. (Not to mention, who can refuse the golden opportunity to put one’s husband in close quarters with his mother-in-law for a week, in the presence of a camera crew? Not this girl, that’s for sure!) We felt secure in the fact that our daughter is as well-adjusted as one might expect of a two-year-old, and that she feels unconditionally safe and loved. Though it hurt my heart to leave everyone, I’m extremely thankful for a husband who embraced the process as wholeheartedly as I did. Otherwise it would have been impossible.
I am incredibly fortunate to have been able to spend every day of the last two years at home with my little girl, without interruption. I know that isn’t feasible for many of you out there and, as I touched upon earlier, I feel for those of you who work full-time and/or who had to go back to work immediately following the birth of your child. It’s taxing to be away from your children under any circumstances, even when you know they are in the most capable of hands! I can safely say that Gray handled the separation with far more grace than I did. Which, if you knew her, probably wouldn’t surprise you in the least.
Although the growing baby in my belly kept me constant company, I’ll admit I was homesick from time to time. As a preemptive strike against allowing those feelings to make me fall apart at the seams, I approached the Wife Swap filming with as much positivity as I could muster. I acknowledged any grief I felt over leaving Gray, but I also tried to see the learning experience for what it was. Not that it was always an easy task! As if it weren’t hard enough to be away from my family for a week, throwing pregnancy into the mix made for an interesting, hormonal “cocktail.” Yes, there were tears galore—you all know by now that I’m sappy, right? But there wound up being a sweet lesson in it for me too… that missing my loved ones and enjoying my alone time aren’t mutually exclusive; I’m perfectly capable of doing both at the same time. Believe it or not, I made a point to appreciate the seclusion that the trip offered. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right? In the rare, quiet moments when we weren’t filming, I chose to accept the “me-time” as a blessing. I let myself live in the moment without guilt. I read a few books and savored sipping my coffee out on the patio. I enjoyed tranquil breakfasts and watched the ocean waves lap at the shore. I felt at peace during a week I feared would be too agonizing to be thankful for. And I’m so glad I did; it wound up being very cathartic. While I missed my husband, daughter, and pups terribly, I also look back on the event with a full and happy heart. That’s all I could have asked for! More importantly, Gray seems to have taken the experience in stride, and unquestionably proved that her growing independence is healthy and strong. (And that’s putting it mildly; I have a pretty tenacious girl on my hands!)
Despite finding some gratification in the journey, my reunion with Brad and Gray was emotionally charged and a huge relief. Our first post-filming family embrace is a memory I will hold onto forever; there is no doubt in my mind that we are better together than we are apart! As lovely as those silent moments of solitude were, I was eager to get back to the chaos and fun of my home life. It’s what my heart is meant for.
Before I go, a quick update on both of my girls: Gray is doing wonderfully, and keeps us in stitches all day long. Who knew our two-year-old would already possess such a sense of comedic timing? She often comes out with words and phrases that momentarily fast forward us to her teenage years… Which we are in no rush for, thank you very much. Even the eye-rolling has already begun! But it’s her expressions that make us laugh the hardest. The other day she declared herself “unique,” (I guess I can thank Sesame Street for that vocabulary word of the day?) just before arguing that she needed to wear her “fancy pink shoes” to Costco, in lieu of a more sensible pair of sneakers. There are also quips that can be directly attributed to my husband or I. A few nights ago she looked at our Basset Hound (who was wreaking havoc, per usual) and exclaimed, “C’mon, Dude, that’s enough!” That particular colloquialism was courtesy of her Dad. One morning, as I set out the appropriate accoutrements for her requested breakfast tea party, I asked if she wanted some fruit to go along with everything. She responded, ”That sounds like a plan, Mommy.” In that instance, it was definitely one of my typical expressions shining through. If I thought we had to watch what we said before, now we’re on DEFCON 1!
Not to be overshadowed by her big sister, the little girl in my belly is getting on well too. She is a mover and shaker, constantly flipping and readjusting. I’m not sure if she’s practicing for her future stint on Dancing With The Stars 2039, or if she’s already searching for a way out. I hope it’s not the latter, as I don’t have the heart to tell her the exit is under lock and key for a little while longer. We sing to the baby daily, and Gray has taken to sticking her tummy out and announcing, “My little sister is in my belly, but she’s not ready to come out yet.” That statement seems to be fairly amusing to the random strangers she tells, so at least we are providing folks with some entertainment. I’m so looking forward to seeing Gray’s excitement when the new little one arrives! There’s nothing quite like sisterly love, and the new baby is in for a wealth of it.
As a reminder for all of you Blossom fans, don’t forget the old gang and I are back in syndication again! The 90’s has returned in all of its “whoa!”-ful glory, so dust off that crazy hat collection and put on your dancing shoes. Check us out for an hour each weeknight, on the Hub Network!
I also just launched a new and improved website, if you feel like taking a look… it was long overdue, and even has some brand new photos to peruse!
***A SPECIAL NOTE: Thank you, Jill Zarin, for being so wonderful to my family while I was away. I couldn’t have asked for a more generous and nurturing woman to fill my shoes for the week. You will ALWAYS , as you so aptly phrased it, be Gray’s Jewish fairy Godmother. We adore you!!
Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,
Jenna von Oy
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